BOC inspects illegal cigarette factory in Nueva Ecija

GAPAN CITY, Nueva Ecija — Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Isidro Lapeña has warned syndicates behind the manufacturing of fake cigarettes that the long arms of the law will get them amid the order of President Rodrigo Duterte and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez to intensify campaign against smuggling.

“This should be a strong warning sa mga gumagawa nito kasi (to those who are doing this } eventually mati-trace din sila (because eventually they will be traced,” Lapeña said in a press conference after the inspection.

They were accompanied by Mayor Emerson Pascual in the inspection of the PHP200-million worth of fake cigars and manufacturing machines found at a compound in Barangay Pambuan here Monday afternoon.

“Hindi naman ito maitatago ng todo (It could not be hidden at all),” Lapeña said.

“These operations are in response to the call of the President and Finance Sec. Dominguez to intensify the anti-smuggling campaign of the Bureau of Customs,” the commissioner said.

On Aug. 17, Customs police arrested 17 Chinese nationals, including a woman, who were caught reportedly making fake cigarettes inside the warehouse here.

Also seized were fake cigarettes of assorted brands, six cigarette-making machines, raw materials and counterfeit Bureau of Internal revenue stamps.

The raid stemmed from the directive of Lapeña to inspect a warehouse owned by a Chinese national suspected to contain fake cigarettes and equipment.

“It was subjected to three-week surveillance by our police following a tip from a reliable source that counterfeit cigarettes are being manufactured inside the warehouse,” the commissioner said.

The arrested Chinese nationals, who were placed under custody of Gapan City police, are now facing charges of violation of Section 170 of Republic Act 8293 (Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines).

They were identified as Huang Hui, Xu Xing Yi, Chen Zhi Jian, Wu Shao Jin, Huang Ci Shun, Cai Yi Ming, Chen Quian Tao, Luo Shan You, Yi Fa Ming, Chen Fu Hua, Xie Han, He Xiao Bo, Zheng Man Hu, Luo Han Ping, Qiao Dong, Chen Chong, and Du Zhen Xin.

They came from various places in China such as Hubei, Fujian, Anhui, and Xian, the BOC reported.

Lapeña said follow-up investigation is being made to confirm the identities of the suspects and the origin of the raw materials as well as the machines.

They are now looking into the possibility that they may be part of a bigger syndicate.

He explained that they have 15 days to produce evidence of payment on the imported items “otherwise a warrant of seizure and detention will be issued by the bureau.”

Yogi Ruiz, director of the Enforcement and Security Services (ESS), said they still have to ascertain when the establishment actually started operation.

Pascual, on his part, lauded the BOC for the successful operation.

“Nagpapasalamat kami kay Commissioner Lapeña at sa Bureau of Customs sa napakagaling po na pagkakadiskubre ng iligal na pagawaan ng sigarilyo dito. Dito po sa Gapan, bawal po ang iligal. Nagbabantay po kami dito at hindi lamang po ito isang pagnanakaw ng buwis sa pamahalaan kundi yung masamang epekto sa kalusugan ng mga tao (We are grateful to Commissioner Lapeña and the Bureau of Customs for the discovery of the illegal cigarette factory. Here in Gapan, we won’t allow illegals. We have been monitoring and it is not just stealing from the government through tax but it has also negative effect on people’s health),” Pascual said. Marilyn Galang/